New MIFF Director Talks Favorite Films and Miami Audiences

Laplante was nominated for a Genie Award for writing Sugar.
While we had MIFF's new director, Jaie Laplante, on the horn last week, verifying his role in Frisk, we also asked him how he characterizes Miami's film tastes and which films he ranks among his personal favorites.

A native of Alberta, Canada who holds a BFA in film production from Toronto's York University, Laplante moved to Miami in 1998. During that time, he also segued from creating films to facilitating how and when they were received by audiences as a programmer. "I found that my creative impulses and my desire to bring art to the audiences could also be satisfied in another way, which is programming. If you create art and show it in the theater and nobody's there - does it even exist? To me, there's tremendous creative satisfaction out of getting people to see a film that they were meant to see."

He's had a hand in programming a variety of Miami cultural events: the Miami Short Film Festival, the South Beach  Wine and Food Festival, and the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Kareem Tabsch, who worked with Laplante at MGLFF, thinks Miami Dade College made the right choice.

"Jaie brings a harmonious balance of knowledge, passion and an exceptional eye for film with the experience of very successfully running large event-based organization with a savvy and fiscally sound approach. It's hard to find someone who understands both," Tabsch explained.

Still, MIFF has had a revolving door of directors over the years as it seems Miami is a particularly difficult film audience to please. After 12 years in the city and his experience with other festivals, Laplante believes he knows what kind of cinema clicks with local crowds.

"I think the fact that we're tropical zone 9 has a lot to do with the type of work that people respond to. Miami responds to film that has a lot of passion, color, flare. It's a city that isn't as interested in the more cerebral or quiet, dark work that comes from some Northern European countries. Not to say that there isn't a place for those films in our festivals, but in general, I think it's those works with grand emotions that really excite Miami audiences the most. At MIFF, we want to turn an eye to the world and bring the best of every corner of the globe to Miami. It's a city of passionate people, that's why I love it so much."

It's much too early to start anticipating films for the next MIFF, so we thought we'd chip away at the mystery by finding out Laplante's top five favorite films. Here they are in chronologaical order. Notice any theme?

1. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) - A dream-like visual poem of a romantic obsession.

2. Mala Noche (1985, Gus van Sant) - A ground-breaking independent "grunge" film about a romantic obsession.

3. The Decalogue (1989, Krzysztof Kieslowski) - Okay, no romantic obsession here. But the 10 short films that make up this work touch me again and again on every level: moral, spiritual, ethical, intellectual.

4. The Piano (1993, Jane Campion) - A beautiful, painterly work about a romantic obsession, with a truly passionate performance by Holly Hunter.

5. Talk to Her (2002, Pedro Almodovar) - My personal favorite of this much-loved-by-Miami director's work. A rich, multi-layered parable of romantic obsession.

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